New Gendarmerie Unit in RS. Another Obstruction Towards Interethnic Reconciliation?

In September of this year, Milorad Dodik had unveiled a formation of a new gendarmerie, an armed police unit. In the Bosnian-Croat Federation, many politicians as well as local citizens have raised concerns towards Dodik’s plan. The police unit should deal with the inevitable security challenges that Republika Srpska (RS) is believed to be facing.

Nevertheless, what is behind of Dodik´s decision? The creation of gendarmerie unit has come into the effect after ‘’the plan in June to establish a new reservist police force – a proposal which was strongly criticised by Bosnian war victim groups and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Western allies’’, Mladen Lakic from BIRN says. This initial proposal was especially opposed by the civil society organisation associating war victims due to their experiences from the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s where the reservist police had been involved in ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Dodik has expressed that he would not drop the idea of reservist police and that he will try to enforce the proposal at the earliest possible convenience. According to Dodik RS just follows the suit like the West where operational units of this kind can be used on various tasks because they are mobile, not stationary.

After having enforced the new gendarmerie unit, Dodik has justified it by saying that it would strengthen the security conditions in Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska and its territory. According to him, there have not been enough capacities to fight the security challenges or tackle the ongoing migration crisis that RS is facing at this moment. However, Dodik has never specified what security threats RS is dealing with these days and so far has been using rather vague designations which have shrouded the whole situation in mystery.

On the contrary, several Bosnian and Croat politicians have announced that Dodik should rather focus on solving issues such as organized crime and growing corruption, which are the real challenges of RS and the Federation. Among the security concerns, we can also classify high constant occurrence of mines, unemployment among youth or lack of social security. And most importantly, certain actors believe that the creation of the gendarmerie weakens the unfinished inter-ethnic reconciliation, notably due to the war crime experiences from 1992-1995 conflict. For instance, the Bosnian vice-president of RS, Ramiz Salkić, announced that such well-equipped unit might cause fatal consequences if being misused by the system against specific groups and that the new unit will serve to protect and implement certain political ideas and goals.

In addition, the establishment of gendarmerie has been also reflected in the United Nations report of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 18th October 2019. The report states that by ‘’reorganising the Ministry of the Interior, the RS has established the gendarmerie of Republika Srpska, a nomenclature and concept similar to components of the military tasked with civil law enforcement’’. The report recommends that the development of gendarmerie should be followed by further monitoring.

However, Dodik is not the only one convinced about the importance of the new gendarmerie unit. Similar point of view has also been expressed by the RS Prime Minister Željka Cvijanović. According to Cvijanović, this initiative is to secure the future of RS, political stability of RS institutions and it strengthens the general safety.

Without any doubts, the establishment of gendarmerie is fuelling tensions. ‘’The parading of the Serb unit creates unease among Bosnians and Croats living in the Serb-run entity,’’ as the interior minister of the Federation of BiH, Aljosa Campara, had said. Also, the United Nations reports states that the development of this unit warrants further monitoring. Nevertheless, new Dodik’s idea has caused further unease in current Bosnia, notably at the time where Dodik has labelled Bosnia as a failed stated.

Picture Source – BIRN

Written by: Zdeněk Rod